National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Oct 12-25, 2012

A blind beggar sees

Unless we understand the original context in which Mark placed today’s gospel pericope, we won’t appreciate the important theological message he tried to convey.

Mark has just concluded his last prediction-misunderstanding-clarification passage on dying with Jesus. He and his disciples are leaving Jericho, the last town before they reach Jerusalem. The next narrative describes his triumphant Palm Sunday entrance into the holy city. Mark has just one bit of unfinished business before he narrates Jesus’ last days. His chance meeting with Bartimaeus will take care of that business.

Up to Jerusalem

We’ve finally reached Mark’s third way of dying with Jesus. There’s just one problem: Those who chose our Sunday liturgical passage failed to notice Mark’s prediction-misunderstanding-clarification pattern. They left out the prediction: “They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him ...”

A trove of new books on Vatican II

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When the Second Vatican Council ended on Dec. 8, 1965, Pope John XXIII, who convened the council in 1962, had died. A new pope, Paul VI, with more traditional views, had been elected. The council had gained notoriety for its heated debates and for having produced more lines of text than any of the other 20 previous councils -- 32 percent of the total. Besides being wordy, the text was often contradictory and difficult to understand. Fifty years later, the documents are still debated, as can be seen in the seven books discussed here.

Louisiana prison's hospice program eases the dying

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Warden Burl Cain has said prison is for predators, not dying old men, but Louisiana’s tough sentencing laws mean a lot of old men die while incarcerated.

In Louisiana, rape, armed robbery and murder warrant life without parole, so in a maximum-security prison like the one Cain runs at Angola, the result is that 95 percent of inmates die in prison.

That sobering reality led Cain to launch a hospice program that trains specially screened inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary to care for their dying “brothers” and be with them in their final journey.

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